Thursday, March 19, 2015
One of my girlfriends turned 50 in January and decided she really wanted to go to Morocco for a few days so of course we needed to go with her!
What an experience.
It was nothing like I imagined and I can only describe it in superlatives: warmest, coolest, brightest, gloomiest, noisiest, quietest, cheapest, most expensive, friendliest, busiets, most wonderful place!
The first couple of nights we stayed in at the “Riad Cinnamon” (small authentic guest house) right on the edge of the famous Souks, the markets. The alley it was in was dull, scruffy and depressingly like a slum – but the door opened into a beautiful inner courtyard. Our “rooms” were on three floors with amazing bathrooms. The plumbing was great and the water was hot! We were welcomed with Mint Tea and everyone spoke English or French. There was a roof terrace to sunbathe on and the call to prayer from all the Marrakech mosques was a real cacophony of sound!
The Souks would be intimidating to some – 12 ft wide alleyways teeming with stalls and stallholders, donkey carts, bicycles, motorbikes speeding up and down, cats, tourists reading maps, men pushing handcarts and noise noise noise!! Very few women. The stallholders were all calling out to everyone to buy their wares – and often they would try to grab your arm and pull you into their shops. We found that a sense of humour, lots of smiles and no-thank-yous worked very well and everyone was charming.
We ate in the Medina – the one night at a roof-top restaurant watching storks arrive in their nests on walls next to the palace, and another night in the main square at food-stalls, watching snake-charmers, monkeys on leads, story-tellers, local musicians, horses, camels: straight out of Indiana Jones and 007!
We also took a bus tour around the newer parts of the city along wide boulevards –King Mohammed 6th aims to attract 10 million tourists to Marrakech – and visited the Jardins Majorelle that belonged to Yves St Laurent and are maintained by a trust he set up. The traffic is the worst I’ve ever seen, even wore than Paris, and that’s saying something. Donkeys/camels/horses/cars/bus
es/motorbikes/pedestrians all intertwining at a distance of a matter of inches as they negotiate junctions. Scary stuff!
Then we took a taxi for an hour and a half up into the magnificent High Atlas Mountains (where the peaks were still snow-capped) and stayed in a slightly shabby but very pretty inn called “Chez Momo” in a village called Ouirgane where there was nothing to do but walk in the hills (if you could shake off the local students all trying out their English on you) or lie around the freezing pool and keep out of the sun!! It was very restful but I’m not used to doing nothing all day. So I admired the flowers and the spectacular scenery and read a book.
Finally on Friday evening we went back to the extremely modern airport at Marrakech, did a little duty-free shopping and flew back to London. One of my friends is a midwife and she ran all the way through Gatwick airport because one of her ladies had gone into labour: the baby arrived in hospital 12 hours later and my friend finally got to bed 44 hours after she got up in Morocco.
An exciting week!